Proton pump inhibitor lawsuits have awakened many to just how serious stomach problems can be. Some taking PPI’s have developed full-blown kidney disease, so it is not a stretch to call heartburn or stomach problems like GERD or acid reflux a potentially life and death matter. PPIs like Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex and Nexium can be expensive, especially if they lead to kidney failure. Meanwhile, a search on the web will help a person find potential alternatives. The question then becomes what advice to take. Either way, there are heartburn drug alternatives for GERD and acid reflux.
Symptoms of GERD include a sore throat or sour taste in the back of the mouth. More severe signs may include asthma-like symptoms, dry cough, trouble swallowing. Left untreated, GERD can cause bleeding, digestion system damage, even esophageal cancer.
Alternative GERD Treatments
Doctors can, of course, prescribe several different types of treatment for GERD. All are intended to reduce stomach acid production. Some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may also provide relief. Complementary methods can work alongside so-called “traditional” (Western medicine) treatment, while alternative therapies can replace them.
What is GERD?
Acid reflux is also known as indigestion or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It occurs when the valve between the esophagus and stomach doesn’t function right. When the valve (also called lower esophageal sphincter or LES and cardiac sphincter) malfunctions, food and stomach acid can travel back up the esophagus. This is where the burning sensation comes from, and gives it the name “heartburn.”
In 2013, the American College of Gastroenterology no longer recommended dietary changes as a treatment for GERD. But today one can find several pieces of food advice on that college’s web site. Whom does one trust today to battle GERD?
According to a Jan. 2017 piece in the UK Daily Mail, one should avoid several foods to avoid GERD or acid reflux. Dr. Jonathan Aviv lists several foods to avoid. They include:
• fizzy drinks
• coffee/caffeine and tea
• citrus fruits with pH 4 or less (ie. lemon, lime, pineapple)
• raw onion or garlic.
Foods that Help GERD?
Dr. Aviv lists these foods as helping the problems of GERD or acid reflux:
- Fish: Salmon, halibut, trout, plaice, sea bass, sole
- Poultry: Chicken breast, minced turkey, eggs
- Vegetables: Spinach, cos lettuce, rocket, curly kale, bok choy, broccoli, asparagus, celery, cucumbers, courgette, aubergine, potato, sweet potato, carrots (not baby ones), beetroot, chestnut mushrooms, basil, coriander, parsley, rosemary, dried thyme and sage
- Raw fruit: Banana, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, lychee and avocado
- Dried fruit: Dates, raisins, desiccated coconut
- Nuts and seeds: cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin & sesame seeds, almonds, pine nuts
- Spreads: Fresh, organic peanut and almond butters
- Cheese: Parmesan, mozzarella, other hard cheese
- Bread and grains: Rolled oats, wholegrain pasta, wholegrain bread, wholegrain wheat flour
- Condiments: Celtic salt, olive and coconut oil, soybean concentrate, vanilla extract, pea protein, white miso paste
Other sites list several treatment options for GERD or acid reflux. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is limited that could support “alternative” treatments (but aren’t all treatments “alternative”?) as a replacement.
Alternative treatments include (but are not limited to):
• Baking soda
• Lifestyle changes (smoking, drinking, overeating, etc.)
Herbalists may recommend several different types of herbs in the treatment of GERD, though studies on these meds are generally poor and not well controlled. Herb treatments include:
• ginger root
• marshmallow root
• slippery elm
One might also consider putting one’s head in the clouds – er, closer to the clouds – to fight GERD. Elevating the head when sleeping, from 6-9 inches, helps stomach contents flow downward. One can place blocks under the head of one’s bed for elevation.
Throw Pills at the Problem
A Western doctor may, of course, prescribe medications such as antacids, H2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors, which have been linked with chronic kidney disease. All three types of medication are available by prescription as well as over the counter (OTC). These pills can cost hundreds of dollars each month, in addition to their “side effects.” In extreme cases, a Western doctor may recommend surgery to alter one’s stomach or esophagus.
One is always advised, of course (and again), to seek a doctor’s treatment for GERD symptoms if one’s home-made methods don’t work, or the symptoms worsen.